Laying out my Heart

The first poem in the first section of my book is ‘introduction.’ It mirrors a poem I wrote back in high school for my senior project, in which I self-published a chapbook of poetry. (For those who don’t know, a chapbook is a very short book, generally of less than forty pages and often of poetry.) I titled the chapbook Dissection: In Search of a Voice. At the time, the title was accurate as I was still coming of age, in a sense. I was eighteen for most of the time I was writing for the chapbook, but despite being technically an adult, I was still growing into myself.

I called the chapbook Dissection and many of my poems reflected that title in that I was trying to pick myself apart and be as honest as possible. But I wasn’t all that honest. I was still largely denying my depression, and by the time I was publishing the book, I felt that some of the poems were no longer true. They imagined a healthier me, a me without so many painful thoughts. They imagined someone who felt present and connected and who was not quite happy but not chronically unhappy.

The poems also reflected that I hadn’t explored my gender much. There was a poem about wanting to change my body to suit my mind, but this was an early stage of questioning. I still referred to myself as my birth sex, and I wouldn’t switch to they/them pronouns for several months.

But despite these flaws, Dissection was a picture of me at the time. It was as honest as I thought I knew how to be. And I wanted to remember Dissection even as I move on from it, so that’s why ‘introduction’ calls back to it, mirrors the language, echoes some of the same words, and says at the end, “I present my body and mind to you.”

Because that is what I am doing, when I write poetry. I am being honest, as well as I can. And I am presenting that painful honesty, clear and plain on the paper.

As for you, do you feel as if you’ve always been honest in what you write? How have you changed over the years, and how has your writing reflected that change? Do you think that honesty is important in poetry?



4 thoughts on “Laying out my Heart

  1. I have never really written poetry – except when mandated to do so in high school or college. I recall a poem I wrote in college about a late night confrontation with a hyper aggressive driver on the freeway, nearly being forced off the road, my wheels inches from the “killing curb.”

    Nowadays I write a blog, as you well know. I think most who read it would think I am honest, at times brutally so. But that is not entirely true, as I hold information back at times – after all, I’m a business owner, not a journalist. But as a general rule, honesty is good if what you are trying to write is self-illumination. I think your writing is courageous and I am proud of you for doing it. Keep it up.

    1. Thank you for calling it courageous. I really do try – it is hard to lay things bare. And I think it is a good thing to be specific in your choices of what you illuminate and what you conceal, whether you write a blog for your business or poetry for yourself.

  2. “As for you, do you feel as if you’ve always been honest in what you write? How have you changed over the years, and how has your writing reflected that change? Do you think that honesty is important in poetry?”

    I like how you drew a distinction between being honest and being true. Similar to you, I feel like my old work is definitely as honest as it knows how to be and certainly doesn’t set out to deceive, but suffers from an unreliable narrator, aka younger me! But I think it’s still cool reading back on this work because you can really see how far you’ve come in your understanding of yourself. The self tends to change so gradually and in such subtle ways that it’s easy to forget how different it used to be.

    Looking forward to more posts and to your book! 🙂

    1. Thank you! Yeah, that unreliable narrator aka the younger self….Of course, I am probably still an unreliable narrator to be honest! It’s amazing how different we are just 4, 5 years later. I wonder how we will look back on our current work in the future?

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